In the heady year of 1977, from that slice of meteorological heaven called San Jose, Nolan Bushnell–the cofounder of Atari–had a charming idea. In a fit of inspiration, he decided to fuse two of the best things on earth and then also tack on one of the creepiest (but who are we to judge?): Pizza, arcade games and animatronic animals so scary they make children hide behind their parents’ legs.
He would build it, furnish it with a stinky ballpit, and they would come: it would be called Chuck E. Cheese’s Pizza Time Theatre.
Many a child of the ’90s spent their birthday eagerly wolfing down greasy pizza, losing at skee ball and then spending the car ride home feeling sick from wolfing down greasy pizza. It was magical! It was everything a kid could dream of, even if that Chuck E. Cheese mouse guy was kind of creepy.
But Mr. Nolan’s dream was foiled by a startling lack of interest in pizza and arcade games. Chuck E. Cheese’s went bankrupt in 1984, and was then bought by competing business ShowBiz Pizza.
Fast forward to 2012: Now that we can play videogames on our phones, why would we go to a pizza arcade? Chuck E. Cheese’s new owners are confronting this question with an abominable concept: reinventing the Chuck E. Cheese mascot and twisting him into a bastardized CGI version.
As Boing Boing put it, “What was once a heart-warming pastiche of ‘scary clown’ meets ‘stoned furry’ is now just another soul-less CGI belch.”
Kids, stick to Angry Birds. The dream of Chuck E. Cheese is gone and buried.
For us grownups, there’s always the Lower East Side Retro Arcade.